BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUBNR
When musician/guitarist Ry Cooder rounded up a seasoned group of Cuban singers and musicians several years ago to record "Buena Vista Social Club," most of them, once stars, had been forgotten in their own country. Wim Wenders' affectionate look at their lives and times effectively demonstrates why each and every one of them deserves to be remembered.
Buena Vista Social Club flows effortlessly from 90-year-old guitarist singer Compay Segundo to 77-year-old pianist Ruben Gonzalez to crooner Ibrahim Ferrer and beyond, interspersing personally told narratives with music performances in public and in the studio. Virtually all the musicians have interesting stories to tell and great music to play, and Wenders does not let the filmmaking get in the way.
In addition to the music itself, Buena Vista Social Club is very much about the Cuban culture and surroundings which gave rise to that music, and Wenders' camera glides through and around the unprepossessing neighborhoods as each musician relates his own story. This documentary is in no way a "white man exploits Third World sounds for fun and profit" (no names, please). Cooder is a true student and aficionado of the music and music-makers, and his respect for them is evident throughout the piece and in his contextual narration. Cooder is also a talented and accomplished musician/composer in his own right, and the respect is mutual.
A joyous tribute to a group of humble but true artists, Buena Vista Social Club also is very much about resilience, rediscovery and the importance of preserving one's heritage. Latin music is currently enjoying a popular revival, and for a true taste of the Cuban tradition, join the Club.